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James Taylor Opens Up About Childhood and Addiction In New Memoir

Gettyimages | Michael Putland
By Michael Coe

Legendary singer-songwriter James Taylor is known for hit songs like "Fire And Rain" and "You've Got A Friend", which he performed and recorded in the 1970s. He is one of the best selling musical artists in history, a winner of multiple Grammy awards, and even the namesake for one Taylor Swift. Taylor has recently released a new audio memoir entitled Break Shot, which chronicles the highs and lows of the early years of the singer's career, and has given several interviews that address some of the memoir's key revelations.

Gettyimages | Michael Kovac

Taylor spoke to The Guardian recently about the early experiences in his life which led him down the road to musical greatness. Taylor grew up in North Carolina under an alcoholic father, which was a situation he described as difficult (although he also asserted that his father was never abusive). Taylor experienced anxiety and depression as a teenager and was at one point admitted to a psychiatric hospital. When he left the hospital, all the funds for his college education had been spent, which inspired him to move to New York to become a musician.

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While in New York, Taylor developed a heroin addiction. Addiction is an important aspect of his memoir, and Taylor notes that addiction runs in his family. Taylor remarked that his great-uncle once warned, "if you’re a Taylor and you touch an opiate, you’re finished. You can just kiss your entire life goodbye."

Although Taylor's father initially helped him with his addiction, it worsened after he moved to London, where both his musical career and his drug problem began to advance quickly.

Gettyimages | Michael Kovac

While in London, Taylor came into contact with The Beatles and ended up being signed to their independent label Apple Records. Taylor told The Guardian, "I was a bad influence to be around the Beatles at that time, too...I gave John [Lennon] opiates.”

Taylor eventually kicked his addiction in 1983 with the help of AA, although it was a difficult process. Taylor said of opiate addiction, "it really lives in your bones; I mean, it just takes forever to get over it."

Gettyimages | Guitarist Magazine

Today, Taylor is free of addiction and lives happily as a family man and a celebrated artist. His new album American Standard is set to be released at the end of this month. The album finds Taylor covering several classic American songs from an era that he considers, "the pinnacle of American popular song." American Standard will be Taylor's 19th album, and his first major release since 2015's Before This World. His memoir Break Shot is currently available on Audible.

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